Game number 48. Of course, as bad as the Buffalo Sabres (13-27-7) have been, this year seems to have dragged on through the first part. However, as time quickly ticks away towards March, the off season is creeping closer and closer.
Tonight the Buffalo Sabres faceoff against the Florida Panthers (19-23-7). While just ahead of the Sabres in the Atlantic Division, twelve points separate the two teams. The only danger in the Sabres winning comes from the Western Conference as the Sabres only hold the last place spot with a short lead, Edmonton is three points better than the Sabres, an Edmonton loss coupled with a Sabres victory puts that last place finish and top spot in the draft lottery in jeopardy.
The Calgary Flames are also pushing in on last place territory, as they are only six points ahead of the Sabres. The scarier part of the equation is the Sabres have played fewer games – so have plenty of time to screw things up and bounce themselves out of the top spot.
Today’s game with the Panthers is the third of four meetings between the new divisional rivals. The Sabres are 1-0-1 against the Panthers so far. The last meeting also took place in Buffalo and ended with the Florida Panthers winning in the shootout 2-1. All time at home against the Panthers the Sabres are 24-11-4. In the last ten meetings between the teams, Buffalo has a 5-2-3 edge.
It hasn’t happened since November, but a loss tonight (while helping them strive for that first overall pick) would be four straight losses. They are also riding a three game losing streak in front of their home fans.
The Florida Panthers are driving into tonight’s contest on a high, having knocked off the Penguins 5-1 last night. If the lowly Panthers come in with the momentum of holding an offensive team to just one goal, the lowest scoring team in hockey is going to have issues finding the net.
Ryan Miller will get the start tonight for the Sabres, and Henrik Tallinder finds his way back onto the blue line. Linus Omark will be in for Zenon Konopka – as Konopka has been penalized often in a blue and gold uniform since joining the team.
Interim coach Ted Nolan wants his team playing a more disciplined affair. Mark Pysyk and Alexander Sulzer join the crowd in the press box for tonight’s game.